Celebrating the inexhaustible energy of fin-de-siècle Paris, L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters features lithographic prints by the five grand masters of the medium: Jules Chéret, the father of the modern poster; Eugène Grasset, who explored feminine beauty in rich, medieval settings; Alphonse Mucha, known for depicting sensuous women and the whiplash curves of their tresses; Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, creator of some of the best-loved images of the era; and finally Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who pointed the way to modernism. These pioneering artists defined a never-before-seen and never forgotten art form: the color poster. L’Affichomania explores the achievements of these artists in concert with the poster’s role in French society, which includes its effect on the life of the Parisian street, the rise of advertising, the entertainment district of Montmartre, and the changing representations of women.
Bright, bold, and found everywhere along the boulevards of late nineteenth-century Paris, the color poster was a brilliant fusion of art and commerce. It advertised cigarette papers and milk, immortalized stage stars and bohemian cabarets, and won the adoration of passersby and art collectors alike. The color poster was heralded as a new art form as artists took hold of the commercial printing process known as chromolithography and adapted it to their creative needs. In their hands, the color lithograph became a thrilling new means of creating visual excitement in the form of posters; some called it a “color revolution.” As pedestrians encountered this lively new scenery posted on the Parisian boulevards, the pulse of modern life seemed to beat faster, inciting a desire to acquire the prints- by buying and selling special editions or by stealthily removing them from walls and kiosks. This sudden popularity of posters fueled a passion for collecting them, called affichomania.